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Tourism picks up five years after Luxor tragedy

Security was stepped up in Luxor after the 1997 massacre

(Keystone)

More and more tourists are returning to the Egyptian resort of Luxor, five years after a massacre which killed 62 people, including 36 Swiss.

Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of the attack, which occurred when Islamic militants fired on a crowd of tourists visiting an ancient temple.

"The Luxor attack had an impact on our business [in Egypt] for years," said Ive Baumann, spokeswoman for the Swiss tour operator, Kuoni.

But tourism officials say the number of Swiss holidaymakers including a stop in Luxor on their itineraries has steadily increased since the massacre, and levels now match those cited by tour operators prior to the attack.

Peter Fässler, a Swiss psychiatrist who has been working with the relatives of victims of the attack for the past five years, says most of them have come to terms with the events of November 17, 1997.

"The people involved have had to cope with a terrible loss and have since had to learn to live with this terrible experience," said Fässler.

Impossible to forget

Vreni Brunner, who lost both her husband and mother in the gun battle, says the events of five years ago still haunt her to this day.

"I have managed to accept the fact that this terrible thing is now a part of my life," says the housewife from Winterthur, "but the memory of Luxor still comes back to me from time to time."

Fässler has returned several times to the site of the attack with relatives of the victims, including the 48-year-old Brunner.

"The woman who I was died in Luxor," says Brunner. "They [the gunmen] broke up my family, and I cannot forgive them."

Aside from the Swiss casualties, Japanese, German and British tourists were also killed in the attack, when members of the Islamic group Gamaa't al Islamiya opened fire on them as they were visiting the ancient temple of Hatshepsut.

Ancient temple

The temple, which dates back some 4,500 years, is one of ancient Egypt's finest monuments and is visited by about two million tourists every year.

One year ago, 78 relatives of the Swiss victims of the massacre received compensation payments from a SFr4.7 million ($2.88 million) special fund set up by tour operators and insurance companies.

The claimants had initially asked for SFr10.8 million ($6.61 million).

Two travel operators, Hotelplan and Imholz, as well as the insurance companies Zurich and Winterthur, contributed to the fund, but declined any responsibility for the incident.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Luxor massacre of November 17, 1997, left 62 people dead, including 36 Swiss.
The massacre occurred when Islamic militants opened fire on tourists visiting the ancient temple of Hatshepsut.
In 2001, 78 relatives of the Swiss victims of the attack received final payments from a SFr4.7 million special fund set up by tour operators and insurance companies.

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